Canadians are some of the biggest personal finance buffs in the world. Everyone says so. I mean what other conclusions can you draw given that our media keeps telling us that our net worth numbers are constantly rising and that our large banks’ performance in the middle of a recession were amazing? As Canadians, we are in the top tier of the planet when it comes to having lots of material goods and high incomes. Clearly we know our stuff when it comes to money.
As a Canadian stereotype, I am both nice and good at this personal finance thing. Consequently, I thought it wasn’t fair to keep all of this mainstream Canadian financial wisdom to ourselves and that we should really try to help the rest of the international community. Without further ado, here is how to become a money expert the Canadian way eh:
1) Don’t teach your kids about money, they’ll learn when they have to. Money is kind of a dirty subject that isn’t polite to talk about. Besides, everyone knows that if you aspire to have more than a middle-class income or net worth you’re probably kind of a bad person. Wealth = suspicion after all. Really, if money were truly something that kids needed to learn, then our schools wouldn’t be completely ignoring it right?
2) Go to university no matter what. This choice will single-handedly determine your earning potential for the rest of your life. You know that statement is true because most parents and every adult in the public school system says that it is. If you have even average grades in high school it is very important to remember that you should never work with your hands because that means you’re probably illiterate and not a “deep thinker”. Canadians send more people to university per capita every year than any other country and the herd is always right (forget that supply and demand stuff the rest of the world believes… bunch of n00bs).
3) Get on social media so you can pick up tips on frugality from your Canadian friends. Just think, that loan they took out for that new RV was at a super good interest rate! Now you’ll know exactly what level of toy/status symbol/vacation you should be pursuing in order to become a paragon of personal finance wisdom.
4) Everyone knows that to be good with money you need a budget. Now budgets don’t have to be exact or anything, they’re just to get a rough idea of like how much you get to spend on treats at the end of the month. Don’t worry if there are a few hundred bucks you can’t really track down – that’s normal – and a person really needs their coffee on the way to work every day right?
5) Speaking of coffee, a financial program that other countries should really look into is our beloved Roll Up the Rim to Win offering that the private sector created as a supplement to government-ran retirement programs. McDonald’s has begun a sister program known as “the Monopoly Game” and it too has much to offer. Recently, Roll Up the Rim really made a solid commitment to Canadians by doubling the number of places there are to “roll” on every coffee. Obviously (double the rims means there must be double the prizes – duh) this means that twice as many Canadians will get to realize their dream of retiring early, or their dream of a free donut. Since you were budgeting to get coffee anyway, this is like killing two birds with one stone as you’re enjoying a necessity, while at the same time valiantly getting your retirement ducks in a row.
6) Buy as much house as you can afford – which is actually more than you can afford – because your bank said you could, and because everyone told you their house was the best investment they ever made. Go with five-year fixed-rate terms on your mortgage every time because the people that make money on that product will tell you they are safe and always the best bet for someone in your position (i.e. someone with a house and a paycheque).
7) Do all your banking with the Big 5 banks because they sponsor the World Junior Hockey Championships and pay to be on TV a lot. I wonder how they can afford to do all that sponsoring and advertising anyway… Oh well, they’re good Canadian companies that are built on good Canadian values. How else could they have become the best banks on the entire planet?
8) Your twenties are a special period in your life. Just get out there and live life to the fullest. There is a time to worry about this money stuff and it certainly isn’t while you’re young and focused on “creating memories”. The overall benefit to paying down student loans and/or credit card bills is pretty minor when compared to seeing the world and getting a YOLO tattoo to show you’re a member of the best generation ever.
9) Don’t ever move to where the jobs are. This is very un-Canadian. Listen, it’s your government’s duty to make sure there are jobs where you were born. If not the government, then those rich people with all the money. This is especially true if you’re from a very expensive Canadian city (if you’re from Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal then you already know that the rest of Canada doesn’t really count anyway). Some crazy people will no doubt tell you that in other countries people move to where there is a demand for labour – obviously they have no childhood friends and don’t understand how hard that is. Good thing there are always jobs for people that go to university. If all else fails, remember that it’s your government’s fault and that they should really start apologizing for their massive oversight by sending you a cheque every month.
10) At some point you will wake up one morning and think about saving for retirement. Unfortunately it’s confusing with all those numbers and big words. Luckily there are people around that will help get you all sorted out for free as long as you invest in what they tell you to. Then you can look down on people that don’t simply buy RRSPs every year (I’m sure wherever you’re from has RRSPs because the nice lady at the bank said they really were the greatest thing and that they will make me a millionaire – what country wouldn’t want that for its citizens?). Retirement is a long way off though so it’s not worth spending a lot of time thinking about. Did you know that if you live in the moment and practice mindfulness you will be much happier? Besides, if something happens and you don’t quite get around to reading about that retirement stuff with all of those weird acronyms, the government sends old people a lot of money every month so it will be ok.
11) Show how smart you are by taking out a Home Equity Line of Credit to pay off your credit cards before using them again. Wait, you don’t know what a HELOC is? Jeez, learn about how interest rates work and why borrowing just a little bit of money against a house that always goes up in value is a great idea.
12) If you decide to have have kids, then make sure and do anything it takes to make enough money to allow them to play hockey on three travel teams. This is how all the guys who are now in the NHL did it, so it will work for your child. It’s important to note that hockey is the only sport in the world that helps build values and characteristics such as drive, teamwork, physical fitness, and toughness. Many Canadians have to work a second job to fund this endeavor, but that is a minor sacrifice for a guaranteed NHL career when you think about it. There’s also this thing called an RESP – I think. Might be worth looking at if your kid only goes through three graphite-core, triple-shafted, reflex-wristed, gold-plated hockey sticks next season.
13) Life insurance and wills are nice to have in a perfect world, but you don’t need to stress out about them if they aren’t done. After all, you’re healthy – nothing is going to happen for at least a few years at the very least. Plenty of time. Life insurance and wills are for old people to think about and you’re definitely not old. They’re a problem for future you to consider solving.
14) As long as you are in love with someone money doesn’t matter. There are way more important things in life than money, so if you and your partner don’t get around to talking about money stuff all that often that just means you’re balancing many demands and making quality time to be together. In fact, why ruin the surprise that is marriage – don’t even worry about non-romantic stuff like financial considerations until you say, “I Do”. As long as you’re in love who needs money anyway? If you’re anything like most Canadians you and your partner won’t let a little thing like finances put stress on a passionate relationship.
15) Once you read the Financial Post for a month and add the Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick on Facebook for a week, you’re ready to get into this whole sexy investing thing. It’s all pretty simple when you get right down to it – buy low and sell high right? Heck, if you want to be really nerdy read a couple of books, pay for a super-secret monthly stock-picking publication, and then watch Wolf of Wall Street. Now just jump in with both feet and start putting that knowledge to use. My bet is that you’re a better than average driver, better than average cook, and a better than average parent, so why won’t you be a better than average stock picker? Day trading, momentum swings, and BNN won’t let you down as you watch your bankroll steadily grow larger and learn some new lingo to impress with at the water cooler and dinner parties.
Follow these fifteen simple steps and one day you might enjoy the personal finance guru-dom that is a national birthright for us Canucks.